Is your organization engaged in a content marketing and owned media strategy to find new customers, maintain relationships with existing clients or establish your key people as thought leaders in their field? The Ghidotti team just returned from a jam-packed four days of learning about today’s best practices and winning case studies in content marketing from around the globe at Content Marketing World, hosted by the Content Marketing Institute in Cleveland, Ohio. Although public relations has always been the foundation of our firm, we know that content is the new creative and gaining new tools in this evolving landscape are important for the development of a strong content marketing strategy. Here are a few key takeaways as you develop or refine your own content marketing strategy.

Companies Need to Define Their Content Marketing Strategy

We all understand that to succeed in business today, you need a clear strategy. New businesses can’t even receive funding without a clearly defined business plan. Still, only 41% of companies engaged in content marketing have a formal strategy, according to a survey by the Content Marketing Institute. To succeed, your content marketing strategy needs a mission statement and clearly defined goals. That means more than just a schedule and outline of topics you would like to write about. It means sitting down and deciding what you really want to achieve, who you need to talk to, how you’re going to get there and what needs to happen along the way.

A Content Marketing Plan and Execution Can Be Very Different

Even with a clearly defined content marketing plan, your team will not succeed unless you have the discipline to follow it. Part of that means saying “no” to content and projects that do not support your mission statement and goals and objectives. 

It also means finding ways to successfully navigate varying interests within your organization. In that same Content Marketing Institute survey, 61% said their biggest challenge is navigating organizational silos, not the actual process of creating content.

And as with most things in business, content strategy and execution don’t follow a straight line. They require a regular system of self-evaluation or even third-party review to make sure your team continues to work toward the right goals and deliver on your mission.

Great Content Answers Questions and Solves Problems. Selling Comes Later.

While there’s certainly the temptation to fill your company blog or YouTube channel with story after story about how great your company is, those stories are not going to bring new customers to you. Yes, it’s important to celebrate your successes, but new customers discover your content when they’re looking for solutions to their problems or trying to get an answer to a question they can’t find anywhere else. 

For example, Marcus Sheridan, one of the speakers at Content Marketing World, began using content to market his pool company after the 2008 recession. To this day, he can attribute $7 million in revenue to one of his very first blog posts that simply explains in great detail and candor how much a new swimming pool can cost. Helping people answer questions and solve problems builds trust, and trust builds loyal customers.

Social Media Is Dying… Kind Of

OK, social media may not be dying, but it’s certainly changing when it comes to how public relations and communications professionals engage on various platforms. One pervading theme throughout the Content Marketing World conference was the reality that you cannot rely on social media alone to drive engagement with your brand or find new audiences. Since Facebook started changing its algorithm in 2013 to encourage companies to pay to promote their posts to existing followers, the communications industry has been scrambling to keep up. And while SEO changes as well, your content on your own platform remains your own and remains discoverable for years down the road. 

Building Audiences Takes Time

The “build it and they will come” approach to content marketing glosses over the fact that building an online audience for your content takes time. A robust customer base, mailing list or social media presence can certainly help get things rolling, but it’s important to understand (and communicate within your organization) that it can take up to 18 months to build a minimum viable audience and start seeing a significant return on your content marketing efforts. Thanks to SEO and the relationships you build with your audience during that time, though, growth can move much faster beyond that point.

Everyone is Doing Content Marketing, But Few Are Doing It Well

Digital content marketing has grown to a point where most organizations are practicing it on some level, but only a few feel as though they’re fully reaping the benefits from those efforts. Just 4%, according to the Content Marketing Institute, rate their content marketing efforts as “extremely successful.” That means we all have lots of room to refine, revise and grow. Are your organization’s content marketing efforts delivering both the qualitative and quantitative results you want to see?